In 2019 already, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had announced a “fresh start” concerning the EU’s migration and asylum policy. On 23 September 2020, the Commission presented a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, in view of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Greek refugee camp Moria a week earlier than planned, but with changes for the worse for refugees.
Moving away from the current Dublin System and faster deportations
Even though the majority of migrants come to the EU for other reasons, the Pact on Migration and Asylum disproportionately focusses on fleeing. The current Dublin System, which regulates the responsibility for asylum applications, will not remain in its original form. In future, a health and security check will be carried out within the scope of an EU-standardized border procedure. According to this, people arriving shall be channelled within five days towards a respective procedure. In future, refugees, originating from countries with a recognition quota in asylum procedures of under 20 %, thereby with less likelihood of being granted asylum, shall undergo a 12-week fast-track procedure. Thereby it is particularly disconcerting that they are generalised because of their country of origin. It is to be feared that this proposed approach will put the legal protection of refugees at risk and serves only to speed up deportations.
No quotas and so-called “return sponsorship“
Unfortunately, the new Pact does not provide for mandatory refugee quotas for the distribution of asylum seekers between Member States. Instead, a new burden-sharing between EU countries shall be established: the acceptance of refugees shall be voluntary. In future, countries refusing to accept refugees may make their contribution in form of material support or by carrying out deportations within the framework of the so-called “return sponsorship”. In addition, third-countries shall do more to prevent migration from their countries and shall be urged to implement readmission agreements and arrangements.
One of the few positive points is that the Pact includes a commitment to rescuing people in distress at sea. It is to be hoped that this Commitment is indeed followed up by actual rescue operations and that people dying in the Mediterranean Sea are no longer just be watched by idle bystanders. It also remains to be seen whether the Visegrád countries, which have been refusing to admit refugees for years, will agree to the Commission Proposal.
Criticism of lack of solidarity
The Pact is already met with plenty of criticism. In a first reaction, S&D Vice President for Migration Kati Piri (S&D) points out that the right to asylum must be guaranteed at all costs and calls for a fair distribution of refugees between Member States though a permanent humanitarian admission programme. The European Trade Union Confederation also rejects the focus on deportations and hard borders and supports genuine solidarity with refugees.